Wolves 1-2 Newcastle: Life can be very unfair, especially to those who give the ball away all the time

Written by World Wide Wolfie on October 2nd, 2011

Football can be very unfair, referees doubly so. Mike Halsey and his assistants got two massive decisions wrong in Newcastle’s favour.

Wolfie has a roof over his head

From my position on the goalline, it was clear the linesman was an idiot

Halsey was the only one in the entire stadium who thought Taylor’s foul on O’Hara a yard inside the box deserved a free kick not a penalty. To pretend the foul could have been outside was spineless. Then to disallow Doyle’s last gasp equaliser because the ball had apparently already gone out of play was ridiculous. I’ll put this one down to the *probably* (unproven – he may just have been stupid and lazy) linesman.

Let’s be clear before I say any more: Wolves deserved a point – or more – from this game , and would have got it but for the incompetence of the match officials. Let’s hope not to see them near our team until they’ve learned the basics.

However, while I’m happy to give Newcastle some credit (kind of me, I think), especially Gutierrez for the second – that we found ourselves 2-0 down was very much our own fault. Johnson lost his marker for the first; for the second O’Hara, and then – critically – Henry, mispassed the ball in midfield to the opposition. Gutierrez, picked it up with plenty to do, but easily passed Johnson and scored a good goal.

So, lazy passing and poor defending cost us as much as poor refereeing. Our attack – in patches, and especially after substitutions – was better than in last few games, but not yet good enough. From 25 shots, 12 on target, we managed 2 goals (I choose to allow the second). Again, credit to Newcastle for this, with keeper Krul pulling off some excellent saves, but a couple of times he should have been given no chance.

So, finally onto team selection, certainly second the most contentious issue around the ground (after refereeing, of course). One change from the Liverpool lineup saw Fletcher in for Edwards, and although they started brightly the team soon lapsed into apathy, losing key battles and making silly mistakes in midfield. This was no excuse for Henry to be jeered off the pitch (for my money he’d mainly put in a decent defensive display and, the even more careless O’Hara should have gone), but there’s no doubting that the injection of Guedioura and Hammil brought some much needed energy and creativity to the attack. They’re not perfect and misplaced a couple of crosses – no more than, say, Jarvis had, though – but neither were afraid of trying something different and running at the defence, and even stirred O’Hara into showing some of the attacking flair he seems to have been hiding too much this season.

The referee and the Toon keeper may have kept the points from us, but our attacking edge needs some sharpening. Guedioura for O’Hara, and Hammil for Hunt next game please.

In my dreams…

 

The US Tour (not football)

Written by World Wide Wolfie on July 12th, 2011

I’ve just been on a little scouting trip to the West Coast of the US of A.  Now I’m back you can expect to see much more action in the transfer market – frankly, I think Mick has been a little nervous and, unable to get me on the phone, has been waiting on a few big deals.

So, here are a few holiday snaps:

Playing it cool in Chicago

Playing it cool in Chicago

Paying my way as a wedding officiant in Vegas

Paying my way as a wedding officiant in Vegas

Experiencing San Francisco mists

Experiencing San Francisco mists

Among the Monuments

Among the Monuments

Sticking big head in front of another landmark

Sticking big head infront of another landmark

Paying homage to Hollywood royalty

Paying homage to Hollywood royalty

 

What a day!

Written by World Wide Wolfie on May 22nd, 2011

So, in the end it did come down to the magic 40 points, but Wolves found themselves yoyo-ing either side of the survival line numerous times on an action-packed afternoon.  Alternately thrilling and devastating, it was a nail-biting rollercoaster, and ultimately when the music stopped, Wolves found themselves still playing with the big boys.

It’s not often a loss can be the subject of such celebrations as we saw today but, believe me, us Wolfies will be partying into the night, and probably a fair way into next week too.

A nail-biting couple of hours infront of the tv

Let's get the party started

So many times it could have gone the another way.  Wolves have never been a team to do it the easy way, but going three nil down was a hammer blow.  Blackburn came out the blocks fighting, and Wolves looked in danger of going down more brawling with fighting, with Henry sailing particularly close to the wind.   Defensive frailties that have plagued us throughout the season came back at the worst possible time.

Even with a torrid first half though, we looked likely to be helped out by the teams around us until Blackpool took a plucky lead (it’s ok to patronise them now they’re in the Championship again) away at Man U.  As Wolves recovered in the second half, with the introduction of Ebanks Blake and a more confident approach almost having an immediate effect, the numerous permutations played themselves out in front of our eyes when Man U went ahead, Birmingham went behind, but then Wigan took the lead.  Then when Birmingham equalised, we were suddenly on the way down on goal difference.  We should take satisfaction that Hunt’s goal to take the game to 2-3 meant that in the end we probably had done enough to save ourselves without Tottenham’s injury time winner against Birmingham.

We may not have done it in style, but we did enough, and so it’s goodbye to West Ham, Blackpool and Birmingham.

When the partying stops, of course, they’ll be plenty to think about.  Despite some brilliant spells, Wolves made heavy work of their survival – I hope – will have to take a long, hard look at their defensive options next year.  We were recently flagged up as one of only four teams in the league to make a profit in the last financial results and, discounting Arsenal’s boost from property sales at Highbury, the only one with any significant profit – £9m in the first Premier season.  The gamble paid off, but in the greed league there’s a fine line to walk.

But that’s for the future.  For the Wolves fans for now, there’s just the party.  Congratulations to McCarthy, Morgan and Moxey and to the whole team for a remarkable end to a remarkable season.

 

Birmingham 1-1 Wolves: Don’t kick Santa in the teeth next time he comes calling

Written by World Wide Wolfie on May 1st, 2011

It’s been too long: too long since I last blogged, and too long since Wolves put in a convincing performance.  Newcastle seemed at the time like it would be an aberration, but it has proved to be the start of some serious relegation standard play.  Our away form has always been poor, and home form seems racing to catch up.  It has always been clear that Doyle was a pivotal player, but I for one have still been surprised how little we’ve been able to create in his absence.

Today could have been just the jump start we needed to launch an undeserved (on recent form) escape from relegation.  Wolves were gifted the early goal with an undeniable – and completely unnecessary – penalty conceded by Ben Foster for a foul on Ward, who was going nowhere.  Six minutes in, Fletcher slotted home confidently and Wolves had the lead.  It could have been our day for once.

Player advantage: 1.  Shots on target: 1

Player advantage: 1. Shots on target: 1

A further gift came in the form of the sending off of Craig Gardner for a second yellow.  The Birmingham fans will have been unhappy with the referee giving a second yellow for a dive, but should perhaps spare their ire for the player who sought to get an advantage by cheating, even when the advantage to be gained was not that great.

Unfortunately by this point Wolves had already surrendered the lead in an all too familiar bout of shocking defending – this time with Mancienne the guilty party (a change at least from Berra or Stearman, I suppose) and Hennessey weak in trying to atone for the midfielder’s shocking header into the path of Larsson.

It can be notoriously hard to break down 10 men (and Wolves certainly find it so – when did we last beat 10 men? Ok, Blackpool, but other than that I can only remember the failures: Man U, Gillingham off the top of my head, but they’ll be many more I forget) but we failed to create any real chance of note despite the advantage.  The replacement of Jarvis by Hunt killed what attacking threat we had carried, and a 1-1 draw was a fair result.  O’Hara continued to raise expecations only to frustrate them; Henry gave the referee every chance to level the playing field by sending him off; Hammill looked, when he first came on for the second half, a candidate to give us real attacking threat, but too soon joined in the tactic of long balls into the box.  Ultimately, there was a lot of running, too little passing, and almost no spark.

Can we stay up?  Absolutely.  By definition, the teams at the bottom of the table tend to lose games – we’re bad but not alone.  Despite picking up only two points from the last five games, we’re only one point from safety, with three games to play.

Will we stay up?  The squad’s not changing and we’re unlikely to get anyone back from injury now, so if the players we have available now can’t play better as a team (and there’s been no sign in the last month that they can), we’ll need a very healthy dose of luck to get the results we need.  We were gifted plenty of luck today, and completely failed to capitalise, so let’s hope Santa’s willing to give us a second chance.  I find it hard to be hopeful but, while there’s everything to fight for, I’ll keep believing!

Next up West Brom, and I’m sure we’ll have no problem beating them, but we have to play for a win, and we have to believe we can achieve it.  Belief is a difficult commodity for teams in our position to come by.  Mick McCarthy has a week to instill it in his team.

 

Wolves v Blackpool Preview: Jarvis in positive mood shocker, lineup predictions and more

Written by World Wide Wolfie on February 26th, 2011

Wolves come into this game fresh from the disappointment of completely arsing it up against bitter foes W*** B***. In truth, a point was a decent result, but the manner of losing all three points, with ANOTHER last gasp goal for the opposition, still rankles today.

Luckily, however, the team should be slightly quicker to pick themselves up from this particular fiasco than me, for whom it’s just one demonstration too many that we aren’t looking likely to learn from our mistakes soon enough this season.

Matt Jarvis told Absolute Radio (full interview to be aired this afternoon):

Obviously we were disappointed after the game, to concede so late on, but it’s been good in the camp this week. We’ve had a good few days training, and then had a nice day off to relax, and come back in today full of good spirits and ready for the game.

Matty also talks about the persisting rumours that he’s been close to an England call up, revealing he hasn’t spoken to Capello but:

it’s everyone’s dream, to play for their country, and that’s exactly what I want to do, but I just want to keep playing well for Wolves and see what happens.

Jarvis reveals that they hope to get three points from every game this season, which sounds a good idea to me, and that the new Rhianna has been on heavy rotation in the dressing room, which sounds like a terrible idea to me.

So, on with the show.  Wolves need three points from this game.  We seem to have delighted in being inconsistent this season so I think that, after last week’s mess up and, having perhaps finally convinced a lot of people that we DON’T have what it takes to beat teams like Blackpool, I think we’ll pull a win out the bag here.

The only likely change I think we’ll see is Foley for Hammill, giving the team a slightly more attacking mindset that last week.  Blackpool will attack well, and I’d expect to see us meeting their attack with more of our own, and hopefully avoid a repeat of last week’s stupidity of sitting and waiting for them to score in the second half.

Hennessey has been much maligned after a couple of errors last week, including a culpable role in W*** B***’s goal, but I’ve been much impressed with him since his return to the team.  I think he’s likely to be need a bit today, Blackpool being a sound attacking team, but that he’s up to the challenge.  So:

Hennessey

Zubar – Stearman – Berra – Elokobi

Hammil – Milijas – O’Hara – Henry – Jarvis

Doyle

Predictions anyone?

Interview credit: Absolute Radio’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Football show travels to Molineux for Wolves v Blackpool today. You can tune in on Absolute Radio extra – on DAB Digital Radio, 1215AM and online in the UK from 1.30pm as programming kicks off with Russ Williams for pre-match build up, followed by full live commentary from Jim Proudfoot, while Ian Wright takes care of post match analysis featuring player and manager interviews, fan phone ins and a healthy supply of banter. Tune in for the full Matt Jarvis interview from 1.30pm. For more go to www.absoluteradio.co.uk/football

 

A Musical Interlude

Written by World Wide Wolfie on February 8th, 2011

I have mentioned this before, but it never hurts to go on about the same thing until someone listens to you.  So: Josh Ritter is the best living singer songwriter.  In fact, the best singer songwriter full stop.

He’s got a new EP out, which is definitely worth a listen.

These are b-sides and rareties, however, so for slightly less quirky stuff, I’d also like to highly recommend ‘The Animal Years‘, with a special nod to ‘Wolves’ (because it’s great and because you have to), and also heck, everything.

 

Wolves 2-1 Man U: How strange must it be to never see your team lose in 30 games

Written by World Wide Wolfie on February 6th, 2011

It’s been a funny old season, demonstrated in microcosm in the last week. Lose in shambolic matter to Bolton Wanderers..march on to a fine victory over Manchester United.

I couldn’t manage to find any sympathy for the disappointed Manyoo fans, especially after a shameful attempt by Scholes to score with the most blatant handball since Maradonna. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to go to game after game and never see a loss. I suspect it breeds a rarely-thwarted expectation – all the sweeter, then for us as the bottom-placed team to end that run. Everyone need a dose of reality in the end.   Shades of 2004, anyone?

This, however, was even better than when Kenny Miller’s counter-attacking goal was clung to by a Wolves team staunch in defence. This was a deserved victory in which we not only finally denied United their sucker-punch last-minute goal, but we effectively stiffled most of their opportunity to attack in the second half. Last ditch defending was not required – good defending took its place across the pitch (because we won, I can overlook the aberration which was George Elokobi completely losing Nani for United’s goal).

The whole team earned the right to celebrate

The whole team earned the right to celebrate

Special mention must go to Jamie O’Hara for a most promising debut, to George Elokobi for a good game (see above) and a great goal, and to Kevin Doyle for his usual skillful running. I might have been tempted to award the second goal to Elokobi also (strangely, no one has even asked me to adjudicate on a official basis on these matters, however), but Doyle thoroughly deserves it for his tireless work through out the season. A mention also to Milijas for an excellent and commanding return to the starting 11.  Ok, and to the whole team, who collectively barely put a foot wrong. And finally, fully justified praise to Mick McCarthy for choosing the right team for the job – it’s always great to see him celebrate because there’s no doubting the team means as much to him as it does to us, in victory and as in defeat.

And I reserve the final praise for Ronald Zubar, whose game was epitomised by an excellent run the length of the pitch, which culminated in the free kick which won us the match. I was too grumpy after the Bolton debacle to review the match – if I had, however, it would probably have been to say how much Ronald Zubar was beginning to bring to mind that most committed of Molineux men – Lee Naylor. Today did nothing to make me think again about that comparison, but I’m happier to speak it out load today as it was for all the best reasons that the ghost of Naylor walked at Molineux again.

Because some claims require documentary evidence

Because some claims require documentary evidence

Lee Naylor has his detractors (oh, so many of them!) and they had their reasons: His defending was error prone at key moments. The Zubar back pass at Bolton sharply recalled Naylor’s lapse in the last minute which cost us a 2004 victory at the Reebok. However, I can now, through the safety of several years distance, admit to being a fully paid up member of the Lee Naylor fan club – well, I did have ‘Naylor 3′ on the back of my replica shirt (and much pain that brought me, as you can imagine). For all his occasional defensive lapses, Naylor was an excellent, hard working attacking left back, always better going forward than defending, but Wolves to the core. Zubar has proved himself to be the same this week and, were I not past the age at which it is acceptable, I’d have ‘Zubar 23′ on the back of my shirt tomorrow. I’d also like to add that I believe Zubar will be able to shake off those lapses of concentration, something unfortunately Naylor never really did.

It is strange that both games this week should have so clearly recalled the same ties from 7 years ago. Wolves went down that season – our ability to avoid the same fate this season hangs on our ability to cut out stupid errors at the back and to reproduce performances like this against the teams around us it the table.

I say we can do it!

 

Wolves 0 – 1 Stoke: Neither Snood nor Sparkle in Sight

Written by World Wide Wolfie on January 30th, 2011

This was an old-fashioned, snotting, English game of football, whose roots could have been traced back to well before the advent of the English Premier League. It was a game that would not have disgraced the English fourth division.

While it may be true that this defeat leaves us free to concentrate on higher things (survival in this League being very much the priority), a defeat is never less than disappointing, and the manner of this defeat more so.

I’ve no doubt the players will pick themselves up and perform better than this on Wednesday, but after watching both teams’ futile punting and mispassing, the announcement after the match that we’ve signed Jamie O’Hara for the rest of the season was even more of a relief than it might have been on another day.

The first half was dismal, and I can suggest no nuggets of consolation to take from it for either set of fans, other than things can only get better. Fletcher hit the bar – a possible glimmer of hope, but he should have scored.

Stoke also gave us many reasons to regret not fielding a second string team as they did their best to kick chunks out of the boys in gold in front of a surprisingly lenient referee. It was fortunate more than anything that only Stephen Hunt joined the casualty list during the course of a very physical game.

Things improved a little in the second half, with Jarvis showing flashes of threat on the wing, but play was still characterised more by misplaced passes than anything else, on a very muddy pitch. Stoke had offered no more threat than we did, but it was Huth who got the simple head in in the 81st minute. Cue a little more urgency from Wolves and a seeming – and not unfair – reprieve in a 90th minute penalty. It was characteristic of our day that Milijas’s tame spot-kick was saved.

The most frustrating thing was the frequency with which we persisted in following a pattern of passing across the middle then back to Hahnemann, who more often than not was left to lump the ball back up to a Stoke player. This frustration was, however, both alleviated and exacerbated by the fact that Wolves did try other angles than route one, but proved equally unable to progress successfully into the Stoke final third. This was a problem of personnel rather than tactics – route one was a fall back because the team failed at anything more subtle.

They will be better on Wednesday, but a fine reason to be happy to see O’Hara join the team.

 

Wolves v Liverpool: when could we last say this fixture is a hard one to call?

Written by World Wide Wolfie on January 21st, 2011

I’ve just written a preview for a Liverpool blog and am far too lazy to write two previews for just one match, so I’m reproducing it here for your reading pleasure.  Apologies for the more-than-usually-patronising tone (and if you’re a Wolves fan, for stating the bleeding obvious), but it was intended for a Merseyside audience… ;)

With ‘King Kenny’ yet to notch up a victory since his much-heralded return to the club, Liverpool will come to Molineux in a relatively lowly 13th place and hoping for a little assistance from a rather leaky Wolves defence (38 goals conceded so far).  I always worry about of defence, who are often too willing to keep backing off players who run at them and prone to serious lapses of concentration, however, after no clean sheets in 16 games, we have three from the last six, so things are looking up.

Wolves are coming into the match off the back of a 5-0 drubbing of Doncaster in the Cup, and a pulsating but ultimately disappointing 4-3 loss to Man City in the League.  Had Tevez not been so good, and had our defence been, well, a little bit less scared of tackling him, we could have taken a point from the tie so I expect we’ll stick with the 4-4-2 that Mick McCarthy seems to have actually been able to make work of late after much trying.  Line up last time was:

Hennessey

Zubar – Berra – Stearman – Ward

Jarvis – Jones – Milijas – Hunt

Doyle – Fletcher

I doubt they’ll be much change from that given we’re still carrying still high number of injuries – possibly Henry in for Jones.  New signing from Barnsley, Adam Hammill, is likely to get a place on the bench, and we may see him for a sub appearance, depending how the match progresses.  Equally, it would be good to see Mujangi-Bia on the wing  at some point.  After a promising 10 minutes against Man City, he may have shown a little more enthusiasm than accuracy in front of goal against Doncaster in the week, but he’s earned a chance to show us a little more what he’s capable of.

Usual left-back (of late at least) Elokobi will be serving the last of a three match suspension so the more-than-versatile Stephen Ward, scorer of course of the winner at Anfield when he played up front, is likely to continue in the left-back slot.  He may put in some heroic last minutes tackles or he may back off his player until the ball sails into the back of the net.  Either is likely – that’s the way it goes.

Watch out for Jarvis on the wing.  He’s not quite lived up of late to his early season form that should have won him an England call up, but he can still give any defence a torrid time.  Milijas is our key player in the middle of the park – his ability this season to add real hard graft to good vision, accurate passing and a mean shot from distance has played a major part in whatever recent revival we have managed.

Up front, Doyle hasn’t scored many – two in the League so far, including one from the spot last week – but his all round play is central to many of the best spells of play we’ve seen this season.  Watch out too for Fletcher, who has mainly had opportunities from the bench this year, but has shown a good strikers instinct when called on.

Casing the opposition in the Kop, incognito, like

Casing the opposition in the Kop, incognito, like

I’ve been to Anfield once this season – not as it happens to see Wolves’s recent victory unfortunately – but watching a see-sawing draw with Sunderland.  The main this I remember was the poisonousness of the atmosphere.  Dalglish’s appointment seems to have the effect of calming this, at least, which in the long term can only be good for LFC, and we should be wary.

So, as to the likely final result, Liverpool have plenty of quality – on their day Torres and Gerrard are among the best in the world (Glen Johnson less so) – happily, those days aren’t as common as they once were, and to counter that we have plenty of team spirit together with not a little quality of out own, as Liverpool have already witnessed to their disadvantage at Anfield this season.

We’re had a habit this season of saving our best performances for the big names, which, of course Liverpool are, if without a team with the confidence to live up to it.  Unfortunately this habit is counterbalanced by an opposing tendency to save our worst performances for the teams around us in the table, but that’s one for another day.

Liverpool will still be favourites going into this match, but the final outcome really is too close to call.  I can’t think of any time in the past 25 years that I could realistically have said that about this particular match up, which I’m chalking up as a major victory for Mick McCarthy already.

Here’s hoping for a great match, played in good-spirit and, most importantly, a(nother) fine victory for the boys in old gold and black.

Up the Wolves!

 

Wolves vs Liverpool: The view from Anfield

Written by World Wide Wolfie on January 21st, 2011

Thanks to Dunny from the Merseyside Juror blog for his thoughts on the game (see my return blog here):

I like the look of the side Mick McCarthy has constructed at Molineux. Wolves are having a go at teams and I’ve got a lot of respect for that. You seem to have a knack of raising it against the so-called bigger teams as we have already seen at our place and last week against Manchester City I thought you were superb. I can’t see McCarthy changing his team for our visit tomorrow.

I like Jarvis the winger. He really stood out when Wolves got promoted from The Championship but he is yet to find his feet in the Premier League. I think he will get there though. Another player I admire is Kevin Doyle. Although he hasn’t been getting the goals he has been working his socks off and is a real presence at the top of the park.

I also read this week that ex-Liverpool youth team player Adam Hammill has joined Wolves. I honestly thought he would end up in Liverpool’s first team after watching him star in our reserve team, but it never happened for him. I imagine he would like to prove a point tomorrow and I can see McCarthy giving him a chance to do so.

Dalglish is yet to record a win since his return to the Anfield helm and Wolves away will hold no guarantees for what can only be described as an average Liverpool team. Liverpool’s away record is relegation form, no question about it. Another defeat here and the pressure will really start to rise for the new regime.

Last time I went to Molineux was when we drew 1-1. Paul Ince was playing for you at the time and I remember him and Steven Gerrard had to get pulled away from one another after a little altercation. They kissed and made up at the end if I remember right. Would I take that result again? I don’t think we can afford a 1-1 draw, we need three points desperately and the team need to play like they believe it.

With Gerrard and Carragher both still out (suspension and shoulder injury) we are obviously a weaker side. The defence are shipping goals and we haven’t created much away from home all season. I can see Dalglish naming an unchanged side from the Merseyside Derby when at times we were really good. Martin Kelly, at the made of 19 has taken the England right backs slot and young Jay Spearing had a good game so there is still a Scouse contingent which is comforting. Our team is likely to be:

Reina, Kelly, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Kuyt, Spearing, Lucas, Maxi, Meireles, Torres.

Hopefully it will be a good game played in good spirit.  May the best team come from Merseyside.

Dunny, The Mersey Juror